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Wed, Sep 12, 2007

ALPA Says Cockpits Still Too Vulnerable to Attack

Union Contends Secondary Barriers A "No-Brainer"

While airline pilots are grateful for the hardened cockpit doors mandated after 9/11, there are some who say those doors don't make the cockpit nearly secure enough... and they want to see 'secondary barriers' installed as well.

The concern lies in the brief periods when trips to the lavatory or to get a meal leave the cockpit open and vulnerable. There is a current practice of having flight attendants block the isle with a beverage cart that some pilots utilize, but more can be done. Some pilots believe a secondary barrier - a relatively inexpensive gate - would fix the situation, according to the Associated Press.

"This is an absolute no-brainer," said Capt. Bob Hesselbein of the Air Line Pilots Association. "Of all the things we could do, the most cost-effective thing we could do right now is put the device in."

The barriers are designed to delay someone trying to rush the cockpit giving pilots time to get back into the cockpit, said ALPA.

Airlines are fighting efforts to have the secondary barriers mandated, saying it should be up to the individual carrier to determine if such a device would increase safety.

The Transportation Security Administration said in a report to Congress in 2005 the barrier "appears to be a simple solution that offers greater security at a relatively low cost."

"Valuable time is gained in deterring the movement of an unauthorized individual towards the flight deck," the TSA added.

But, the TSA also refused to recommend making the barriers mandatory, saying, "The costs of engineering and installation would be incurred by the [airlines] to retrofit" their aircraft. "The economic fragility of the industry due to increasing costs, including persistently rising fuel prices, makes this a decisive recommendation."

Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, said he is going to reintroduce a bill to require the barriers on passenger planes.

"Everybody recognizes the vulnerability," he said. "The airline industry recognizes the vulnerability and thinks that the federal government ought to pay for the secondary barriers. The federal government recognizes the vulnerability and thinks that the airline industry should pay.

"Meanwhile, for as long as the debate continues, the flying public is less safe."

"You can never guarantee that you're going to have an armed pilot protecting that cockpit from inside that cockpit. You can never guarantee that you're going to have a federal air marshal, or federal air marshal team, in the cabin to defend that cockpit," Hesselbein said. "But the secondary barrier, once installed, will always be there."

FMI: www.alpa.org, www.tsa.gov

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